Celebrating Heritage and History

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Photo by Emily Mahoney

Student artwork displayed at LISD's Black History Art Show hosted by Glenn High School's Black Student Union. Junior Sophie Menendez placed second in the high school category with her piece of Louis Armstrong. “I am a huge jazz fan, and I listened to Armstrong, and other jazz icons like Aretha Franklin, as well as Ella Fitzgerald when I first moved to Austin,” Menendez said. “Their music helped me get through a difficult change in my life.

Emily Mahoney, Reporter

What was at first a showcase of student art became a spectacle of inspiration and celebration of black excellence thanks to numerous speakers and talented community members taking part in the event.

Orchestrated by Glenn High School’s Black Student Union, the Black History celebration on Feb. 13 included a number of guest speakers and presenters covering topics like black entrepreneurship, black male and female empowerment and more. What set this show apart from others was not only its pride and celebration of culture, but also its offer of varying cash prizes to participants. The second place winner in the high school category attending Cedar Park High School was junior Sophie Menendez. 

This young artist has taken advantage of contests like this to receive feedback and hone her skills to achieve a level of excellence and expression worthy of increasingly prestigious awards, but she would not have been able to do so without a love for art itself as Menendez explains.

“What I enjoy about making art is that I can plug in music and take genuine time to myself, especially when school and life are extremely difficult,” Menendez said. “I think art is a great outlet for anyone who wants to relax and have fun.”

While Menendez’s Louis Armstong portrait earned her an award and cash prize, her inspiration for the piece is deeply personal and stems from an appreciation of other forms of art.

I am a huge jazz fan, and I listened to Armstrong, and other jazz icons like Aretha Franklin, as well as Ella Fitzgerald when I first moved to Austin,” Menendez said. “Their music helped me get through a difficult change in my life.”

African American Heritage Club sponsor Tiffany Asha elaborates on preparations for the art show.

“This was the very first year for the LISD Black History Month Art Contest,” Asha said. “I reached out to everyone I know, persistently networking for weeks, and landed a $350 cash award sponsorship from A+FCU for the winners.”

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Asha
Menendez’s second place winning art piece. 

As for the accompanying presentations, Asha praised Glenn High School’s Black Student Union and other organizers for pulling together such a cohesive and successful event.

“The evening itself was very well organized and executed,” Asha said. “The students at GHS, along with their sponsor Randy Bryant were completely ready the night of the event. The students I had that were able to attend loved it, their parents remarked that how happy they are that LISD is recognizing Black History Month now. I spoke with several community members in attendance who do not have children in LISD [and] they, too, were overjoyed that LISD now has a BHM event, and came to support.”

Menendez’s experience at the art show itself was certainly a positive one, not solely for the recognition of her personal achievement, but because of the enthusiasm and supportive energy present throughout.

“Everyone there was sincere and really interested in all the art and performances the students put on,” Menendez said. “The show demonstrates how important it is that students from all different types of backgrounds feel unique and important in their school.”

Additionally, she praises Ms. Asha for helping to promote inclusivity and cultural connection through art.

“Ms. Asha strongly encouraged all of her students who have an interest in art to submit works for this contest,” Menendez said, “and I think she exemplifies how important it is for teachers to educate students about all cultures.”

The art show not only encouraged black students to take pride in their culture and for students of other races to learn about black history and heritage, but allowed all students to express themselves artistically through an outlet of positivity and inclusion.

“Celebrating Black History Month is critically important for every single student in our district, regardless of the color of their skin,” Asha said. “The art show allowed LISD students to participate in Black History Month in an authentic way through their own personal creative expression.”